Like it or not, the offseason is here, and we're examining what each Big Ten team must address before the 2015 campaign kicks off in September. The series concludes today with the Wisconsin Badgers, who will have their third coach in four seasons as Paul Chryst takes command.
1. Improve the quarterback spot: Wisconsin keeps winning without elite quarterback play, but if the program ever wants to take that next step, it must improve at the most important position. Enter Chryst, who took Scott Tolzien from average to good and Russell Wilson from very good to elite during his tenure as Wisconsin's offensive coordinator. Chryst's next project appears to be Joel Stave, who boasts a 20-6 career record as Wisconsin's starter and a 139.7 career passer rating, but has frustrated fans with interceptions and inconsistency (9 touchdowns, 10 interceptions in 2014). Both Stave and Bart Houston -- an afterthought during Gary Andersen's tenure -- should benefit from Chryst's presence. Redshirt freshman D.J. Gillins is an intriguing prospect, and heralded recruit Austin Kafentzis is already on campus.
2. Build depth at wide receiver: Stave didn't have much to work with on the perimeter last season, as wide receiver depth remained a major problem for the Badgers (despite standouts Jared Abbrederis and Nick Toon, wideout has been an issue since Henry Mason stepped away from coaching after suffering a serious injury in 2007). Other than Alex Erickson, a nice surprise last fall with 55 receptions, the receiver group is filled with question marks. Reggie Love and Rob Wheelwright aren't new names to Wisconsin fans, but both must produce more after disappointing performances last fall. The Badgers also need younger wideouts like George Rushing to emerge. Chryst's yet-to-be-named receivers coach has a lot of work ahead.
3. Maintain momentum on defense: Chryst's retention of defensive coordinator Dave Aranda might have been the most significant coaching move (non-head coach) of the offseason in the Big Ten. Aranda's innovative, speed-oriented, disguise-heavy, 3-4 scheme has elevated Wisconsin's defense, which last fall ranked in the top four nationally in yards allowed, first downs allowed and third-down conversion rate. The Badgers must replace key pieces at inside linebacker and defensive line, but they return a lot in the secondary and promising players like Vince Biegel. Aranda will be working with a new head coach and a new defensive staff, so it's vital that there are no philosophical hiccups and Wisconsin can keep the arrow pointed up.